OHAFC Vets fall to Ealing CC in see-saw encounter
Sunday morning brought the first feel of winter as the clocks went back and a chilly breeze greeted the Harrow Vets and the players from Ealing Cricket Club. Harrow had a fourteen-man squad, which meant a series of rotating substitutes. Captain John Wyn-Evans had devised a fiendish system to evenly spread the amount of time spent warming the bench, but it was so fiendish to understand that Harrow attempted to kick off with twelve players on the field. Finally play did get under way, and the front pair of Dom Danos, fresh from a scoring return the previous week, and Ben Stones, looking lively having not played on Saturday, were posing threats on the Ealing goal. After just ten minutes Danos made good ground down the right, beat a defender on the by-line and sent a delicious cross for Ben Stones to head powerfully back across the keeper into the net. Harrow should have gone two up shortly after when a succession of shots from Wyn-Evans and Andy Burley were either cleared off the line or hit the post, and this proved to be something of a turning point in the match.
Ealing, fielding one of their more proficient sides in recent times, began to press more aggressively and also abandoned a wasteful policy of firing long balls over the top which had been gathered easily by Harrow’s first-half 'keeper Ethan Kline. Moving the ball neatly and quickly, they bamboozled the Harrow defence and the scores were quickly levelled. Soon enough Ealing were 2-1 ahead, and despite a number of opportunities at the other end that's how it remained till half-time.
The pattern of play remained similar in the second half, with chances being created at both ends but neither keeper being severely tested until Ealing broke quickly from their own penalty area to sweep the ball upfield to their diminutive centre-forward who beat the 'keeper one-on-one. Promising attack turned into disastrous defence in the space of ten seconds. Still, Harrow remained optimistic, and soon enough Danos continued his scoring streak with a neat shot on the turn after Seb Stones had headed the ball back in from a cleared corner. Game on… or perhaps not. Ealing had spotted a weakness in the Harrrow defence, and scored two more goals following fast, decisive breaks from their own half.
The Harrow lion refused to lie down. Neat interplay between Feather, Ingram and Wyn-Evans created opportunities from the right; Kline was providing dangerous service from the left; the Stones brothers were carrying the ball at the Ealing defence. Ingram flashed a header wide before Kline sent over a perfect cross for Ben Stones to glance home. Sadly that was to be the end of the scoring and the game ended in a 3-5 defeat for Harrow. So played 4, won 2, lost 2 so far, with a zero goal difference.
No doubt Ealing were better on the day. They were generally a lot younger on average, and with many of them being semi-professional cricketers (a couple have played for Middlesex CCC) they were in good shape physically, even if the larger of their attackers smelled like a brewery. It's also fair to say that they put in a few feisty tackles and a less lenient referee might have brandished a yellow card or two. Several Harrow players seemed sub-par - maybe the cold weather meant that ageing muscles and limbs never warmed up. It's also fair to say that trying to rotate 14 players brings some disruption to the shape of the team, but we try not to turn people away if they are keen to play.
In any event, the match was played in a spirit fitting to the memory of the late, great Bert Worthy, who was an Ealing Cricketer himself and the original organiser of this fixture. He will have looked down from his celestial dugout and been pleased not only with the skill and endeavour on show, but also the banter, the odd niggling foul, and especially the interminable sledging of the referee.
Next up are the Old Salopians on Remembrance Sunday, November 11th. That will be the last friendly before the Cup defence begins and hopefully will feature a good number of the prospective Cup side.
Squad vs Ealing:
John Wyn-Evans, Mark Baddeley, Ed Thorn, Ben Durling, Mike Morley-Fletcher, Charlie Feather, Andy Burley, Jon Ingram, Ollie Morley-Fletcher, Ethan Kline, Dom Danos, Seb Stones, Ben Stones, John O'Connell
*Photos from Sunday's game, expertly taken by Mike Morley-David-Bailey-Fletcher, can now be seen in the Media section